The Openness Dimension of Personality

In Big Five personality theory, Openness describes an approach to thinking that is complex, abstract, and curious. People who score high in Openness tend to be creative, interested in intellectual pursuits, and open to new ideas and ways of doing things. People who score lower in Openness tend to be more literal, appreciative of tradition, and drawn to what is useful and practical.

Openness describes a person’s tendency to think in abstract, complex ways. High scorers tend to be creative, adventurous, and intellectual. They enjoy playing with ideas and discovering novel experiences. Low scorers tend to be practical, conventional, and focused on the concrete. They tend to avoid the unknown and follow traditional ways.

Openness is correlated with intelligence, but only modestly. Openness is best thought of as an attitude of intellectual curiosity, and does not necessarily indicate intellectual capacity.

What High Openness Looks Like

Openness is strongly related to a person’s interest in art and culture. People who are high in openness tend to enjoy the arts and seek out unusual, complex forms of self-expression. They are likely to be creative and enjoy playing with ideas. They often think in symbols and metaphors and notice patterns. They look beyond the facts and pursue a higher level of understanding.

People high in Openness are intellectually curious and usually have an interest scientific theories and innovation. They are interested in abstract concepts and enjoy intellectual disciplines like mathematics, science, language, music, and the visual and performing arts.

Those high in Openness tend to be adventurous and enjoy exploring new things. They may get bored with the routine and mundane, preferring instead to seek out environments that stimulate the mind. They are often (though not always) politically liberal and open to new and unconventional ideas.

What Low Openness Looks Like

People who are low in Openness tend to see things literally, and focus more on the practical, straightforward, and concrete. They tend not to be interested in theories and ideas, preferring things that are real and practical.

People who are low in Openness tend to be pragmatic and traditional. They typically are not drawn to the arts or to creative expression and prefer to spend their time doing things that feel useful. They prefer jobs and hobbies that have a practical purpose and an observable result.

Those who are low in Openness do not like to spend time playing with ideas and usually have conventional values. They are more realistic than imaginative, and have little interest in new ideas when the old system seems to be working just fine. They are most comfortable in familiar surroundings and tend to be creatures of habit. They may be resistant to change and prefer to stick with what they know.

Low Openness scorers are more likely to be politically conservative (though not always!) and to spend their leisure time enjoying popular entertainment, including major league sports, blockbuster movies, and pop music. They do not tend to be interested in art and usually avoid high-brow cultural activities like the opera or the ballet.

Molly Owens
Molly Owens is the founder and CEO of Truity. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley and holds a master's degree in counseling psychology. She began working with personality assessments in 2006, and in 2012 founded Truity with the goal of making robust, scientifically validated assessments more accessible and user-friendly. Molly is an ENTP and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she enjoys elaborate cooking projects, murder mysteries, and exploring with her husband and son.